August 8, 2016

My First Week in 3rd Grade

I finally have time to sit down and think about my first week in 3rd grade. It was exciting, albeit a little long, and I know we are going to have a good year together!

First of all, it has been so enjoyable to feel like I am picking up where I left off in May. I have taught 2nd grade for 8 years, and so coming back to school to teach 3rd graders has been such a nice transition! I have enjoyed being able to talk to my 3rd graders and connect back to things they did last year. I've also benefited from their 3rd grade work stamina-40 minute writing assessment? No prob! Just read for a few minutes? Ok! While we will, of course, work on stamina for the next few weeks, it is so nice to have a base for that. 

3rd graders are also just a lot of fun to talk to and learn from! They have clear ideas about what to expect from themselves and from school, but are open to new things. They have some different interests and things they would like to learn about (Wars, Mythology...), they cleverly make requests (Hey, Mrs. T, sometimes chewing gum helps you concentrate-can we chew gum during Writer's Workshop?), and they are ready for more responsibility (Safety patrol applications went home this week!). It's exciting for them and for me. 

This first week was also an easy lesson in humility for me. I'm learning all about my new team and how 3rd grade "goes" at our school. I'm learning our new standards. I'm figuring out how to make a challenging classroom work. As a result, I feel like I've spent the week constantly saying "I don't know." or "We're going to do this for now and see if it works." The amount of decisions we teachers have to make everyday is astounding, and in this new situation, it is wearing on me a little bit! 

I hope that you all have a smooth transition back into school! I, for one, am ready to tackle another great year!


August 7, 2016

Our Classroom: 2016 Reveal

Welcome to my new classroom! The panorama above, while cool, does not truly capture the feel of my classroom. It's difficult to tell, but I have a bit of an L-shaped classroom. I had to stand in the front corner of my room to get a good picture, rather than the doorway.

Here is a view from the actual doorway. This picture was taken right before Meet the Teacher.

Setting up this room has provided me with a lot of challenges. There are still a few things that I'm figuring out, or that I just don't like. I've also had difficulty finding places to "put" everything-for storage and just general classroom needs. However, there are plenty of spaces in my classroom that I'm really excited about this year.

Empty Walls and Boards
As you may remember from last year, I have very strong opinions about my empty walls and empty bulletin boards-but that doesn't stop me from making them beautiful! I've got some things planned out, but most of the walls are just empty and without plans right now! Here are some photos:

Titles are a way to spruce up a board that is waiting for students. Banners are helpful, too-the banner over my interactive whiteboard helps add color and life to the front of the room without creating distraction. 

This sort-of-empty wall will be filled with photographs and hashtags throughout the year! I will have the kids help write hashtags for the pictures as we post them. If you think about it, hashtags are a great way to practice summarizing. 

Making it work
This is what you will see immediately upon entering my classroom. At first, I was really unhappy about that, because the bookcase was just so drab. In the end, I was able to spruce it up with the nice baskets and some pom poms.

Student Ownership
Below is a real life picture for you. The book boxes are getting full and are a little wonky, but I wanted to show how my students decorated their own labels. I've been trying to figure out ways that students can help build our classroom environment, and this was an easy way to do this on the very first day. They were also able to decorate their own name tags. They will be adding visuals to our procedures posters and a few other things as we continue through the first six weeks of school.

A Cozy Place
Here is another look at the front of my classroom. I love my huge and beautiful rug, comfy chairs with emoji pillows, and fun bulletin board borders. My kids like hanging out in this area, too, even though we haven't even turned on the computers yet!

Hope you've enjoyed and maybe even found some ideas for your own classroom!


August 3, 2016

Using Games to Build Math Fluency and Flexibility

Math Facts. Are there any other words that bring such anxiety to the minds of teacher, students, and parents alike? With that said, mastery of these early math skills is oh-so-important for academic success.Over the years, I have developed a system that works for real students learning strategies for Math Fact Fluency (note, I didn't say memorization...more on that later). Flashcards, games, number talks, quizzes, and student data tracking are all a part of what I have seen work for the students in my classroom. Today, I want to talk a little more about Games. 

Why should I use Math Games? 
Students who are stressed or bored are simply not going to sharpen or even retain what they are learning. Therefore, games allow students to sharpen and build their knowledge of Math Facts in a low-stress environment. A parent in my class has developed some games (Math Kit) to help families "cuddle up" with math facts-like you would "cuddle up" to read. I love that idea! It's true that we often approach our Reading instruction and practice with a much different attitude or philosophy than we do Math skills.   

Even more than the mastery of skills, enjoyment of the learning process is, in my opinion, just as important so if we want to foster a love of learning (all learning) in our students. If you can have fun learning, you should take advantage of that opportunity! 

How can I use Math Games?
I suggest teaching the Math game you are using in class and allowing students to practice in class. Maybe this means having them practice during the work time following your mini lesson. Maybe this means including it in your center time. I believe that Math Games can be used no matter how you teach Math. 

I also suggest sending directions home as a part of homework. I don't assign Math Fact worksheets for homework. I give students copies of the flashcards after I have taught them some ideas or protocols for how to use the cards. I send home directions either physically or via our blog. This way, students can practice their Math Facts in a fun and low stress way at home as well! BONUS: I don't have to make copies of or check over worksheets. 

Doesn't it take a lot of prep?
It can. Some teachers love to use lots of different games with things to copy, cut out, and laminate. But to be honest, that is just not my style. At all. So, I would say NO! Incorporating games into your Math time doesn't have to take much preparation at all! Most of the Math Fact fluency games in my classroom only require a deck of cards. Recording sheets are often optional (I've found they can slow kids down), other materials are simple, and copying is at a minimum. Even more, I reuse many of the games with different sets of Math Facts so that I don't have to spend much instruction time on teaching the games, either. 

Sounds fun, but don't my kids need to practice writing answers as quickly as possible?
Ok. So. When my kids practice in games, I don't often have them record their work. I figure 1. Their partner is going to correct them if they are wrong. and 2. Writing down answers is just going to slow down their work with the game. Ok....and 3. I don't need anymore papers to check and file. 

Here's why I think  know that it is ok that students are practicing Math Facts through games and not drill worksheets:
1. Mathematical Fluency and Writing Fluency are two different things. Think about that. Many students can work quickly in their heads, but struggle with putting that on paper. Yes, I do assess them with written work, but allowing them the time to practice their Math thinking without the added stress of writing it down is powerful, especially for our students in the primary grades.
2. I have seen my students meet standards and make improvements without daily drill on worksheets. All of what I'm sharing with you has become my passion because I have seen positive outcomes in my classrooms over the past years. 

Interested in learning more about how I approach Math Fact Fluency in my classroom? Read more:
Using Number Talks to Build Math Fluency and Flexibility

Interested in trying out my system for building Math Fact Fluency? Check out these products in my TPT shop:

Addition Facts By Strategy: Flashcards, Games, Number Talks, Quizzes

July 28, 2016

Using Number Talks to Build Math Fluency and Flexibility

What are Number Talks?
Number Talks are a short, daily routine to focus on mental math computation. They are (typically) full class discussions, facilitated by the teacher, but guided by the students.

Why should I use Number Talks?
First of all, Number Talks are a quick and easy way to get a glimpse into the thinking of your students. Are they using the strategies you have taught? Which strategies do they prefer? Are they able to flexibly apply strategies? Are they able to describe what they are thinking?

Secondly, depending on what you learn about your students' mental computation skills during these Talks, you can guide their use of and understanding of new strategies.You can also use this time to model how to write down their thinking in a variety of ways.

Finally, you should use Number Talks because it is an amazing way to build a strong Math Community. Student voices are heard and validated. Students learn to listen to each other and "piggyback" off of ideas. Creativity is encouraged as students learn there are multiple ways to arrive at an "answer".

How can I implement Number Talks?
First, choose a time of day where you have 10-15 minutes and pick a discussion protocol. I use Think-Pair-Share for most of my Number Talks. (Article on TPS here.) Then, choose a few problems that will lend themselves to whatever strategy you are working on. Doubles plus 1? Make 10? Regrouping? Partial products?

As your students share their mental work with these problems, do your best to make their thinking "visible". Record their ideas with words, numbers, or pictures of any manipulatives they may have used in their visualizations on an anchor chart. Below are two digital examples of 2nd grade charts created during Number Talks.

That's all you need: Time, protocol, Math problems, something to record with, and lastly, an Open Mind. I think the best way to start Number Talks is just to jump in. As you and your students explore, you will discover more about the protocol you want to use and the types of problems you want to present to students. In addition, with practice, you will develop questioning skills that allow your students to take control and think and discuss more deeply.

My Experience
Number Talks have been an important part of what has transformed my thinking about Math Fact Fluency. I have personally had a lot of success with using Number Talks to teach, practice, and reinforce strategies for single digit addition and subtraction. Of course, Number Talks have not been limited to these categories, but they have made such a huge difference in my students' basic fact fluency, which is an important 2nd grade skill and standard.

Visit my shop to find a super-affordable unit for Addition Fact fluency, which includes multiple Number Talks for each strategy, in addition to flashcards, games, and quizzes:

Addition Facts By Strategy: Flashcards, Games, Number Talks, Quizzes

Further Learning On Number Talks
Short 3rd Grade Example: Short 3rd grade example video
Number Talks Guru book: Number Talks, by Sherry Parrish


July 25, 2016

Monday Made It: Ideas for Community Building

Click here to see the rest of the link up.

Hi everyone! I've been in Back To School mode, like a lot of you. I wanted to share a few things I've worked on as I have been setting up my new classroom. I am switching grade levels this year, so I am having to unpack and figure out a new space. I have also been focusing on how I will build community with my 3rd graders beginning at Day 1. So, the two things I am going to share with you today were created with that goal in mind. Enjoy, and I'll share some links to the original ideas for further inspiration!

Our Name-I have called my class my "Team" for many years. However, at my current school, we are a part of Expeditionary Learning, and mostly refer to ourselves as "Crew". SO I've decided to call us the T-Crew (for Tolentino-Crew) for the year, and had to make a cute little banner to display above the Promethean Board! I grabbed the felt letters at Target, and the fans at Party City. I added a little hot glue, and it was all ready to go! 

Speaking of "naming" your students, I read a great article from the Responsive Classroom blog on this recently. Check it out here: Naming Students In Positive Ways
Birthdays-I am really bad at keeping up with birthdays and making sure students feel special on their big days. I know. That sounds terrible. I've always given out a little pencil with a paper balloon attached to it, but I saw a great card idea shared by Teaching Maddeness in her Student Birthdays Made Easy post.

This card will be posted on the board for students to sign during the day for our Birthday Person. I love the idea that we will all take a minute to appreciate the birthday kid, and at the same time create a little treasure for them to take home!

Have a great week!

July 24, 2016

The FIRST Day: Morning Meeting Ideas

The first day of school is right around the corner for a great many of us teachers. If you're like me, you have been making plans (or at least thinking about making plans) for these first days. The first Morning Meeting of the year sets the tone for the rest of the day. It's worth taking a few minutes to really plan it out, even if you usually don't make detailed plans for the meeting.

I want to share my top 2 things that MUST be accomplished during your first Morning Meeting of the year. Then I'll share a new idea that I'm looking forward to implementing in my first Morning Meeting of the year.

Practice-This is my first MUST. Consider this your first routine to teach-how to come to the carpet for your meeting. Take the opportunity to do the modeling yourself, since it's the first day-show the right way to do it, and have your kids point out what they notice. Then be a little silly to show the wrong way to do it. This can show your kids that while you have high expectations for them, you also have a sense of humor and don't mind being a little silly when you need to be.
Make Introductions-Here is the second MUST. Introduce each student to the class. When you do the introductions, you can avoid putting individuals on the spot. Nerves are high, and even something as simple as sharing names or other personal information can be uncomfortable for a lot of students. Yes, it can feel a little strange, but that's ok. Here are two procedure ideas for this:

Introduction 1:
T: Everyone, this is my friend/our crew member/3rd grader Amelia.
S: Good morning, Amelia!

Introduction 2:
T: Everyone, this is my friend/our crew member/3rd grader Amelia.
<Student gives high fives to their circle neighbors>
Mindfulness Activity-I have recently been doing my own personal research on using mindfulness in my own life. Mindfulness is simply about being present in the moment. Mindfulness activities are also things that anyone can do and be easily successful at. There are no right answers or right way to do things, and they are usually very simple. And for a lot of us, they just make us feel good!

Now, I am no expert, but I found this great post with ideas: 7 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids Mindfulness. I plan to use a Raisin Activity on the first day. In addition, if you use GoNoodle, you may select an Empower video which will guide your students through mindfulness exercises.

Here's to a great FIRST Day!

P.S. You can check out my other "First Day" posts here:
The FIRST Day: Morning Work
The FIRST Day: Lunchtime

July 11, 2016

Monday Made It: July 11

Click here to visit the rest of the link up. 

Recently, I finished reading The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller. I really enjoyed it! I was inspired to create my own Reading Inventory for my future 3rd graders. When I sat down to create, I was immediately struck by the idea of gamify-ing it a bit by using the arrows, yes/no paths, and emojis. I hope the kids will enjoy it, and I hope you will, too! It's free in my store. Click here!

Guys, I don't know if this really counts as a made-it, but I made my favorite boxed brownies for a little Independence Day shindig! If you haven't tried Ghiradelli's Double Chocolate brownies, you simply must! So delicious.

My husband asked me if we had any left on Thursday. Um, is he crazy? Of course there aren't any extra! It's Thursday-I already ate them all!

I've probably said it before, but this is my favorite link up. I can't wait to see what everyone else has been up to! Time to get lost in blog-world!


June 29, 2016

The FIRST Day: Lunchtime

I once heard a school administrator say that on the first day of school, we really have only three jobs:
Get 'em here-Get 'em fed-Get 'em home
and as teacher going into the ninth year of my career, I think that is a pretty accurate statement. Lunchroom procedures and expectations can be one of the most stressful parts about the beginning of the year. And if you're like me, you know you are going to have "lunch duty" for at least a couple of days at the beginning of the year, and for good reason! Today, I want to offer just three "to-dos" to remember for your First Day Lunchtime.

1. Go To The Bathroom. Seriously. As soon as your kids get through the line, get seated, and  start eating, ask a teammate or some other adult in the room to keep an eye on your class for 30 seconds. Go do your business. Your bladder will thank you.

2. Eat. Seriously. Eat, people. Eat some protein. Eat some chocolate. Drink some water. You should be all set to conquer the last half (or less!) of your day.

3. Send a Remind Message. I like to use the Remind App for reminders, but also to send photos and compliments about the class as a whole throughout the week. Take this opportunity to send everyone a "We're having a great day!" text. Your parents will love it. Of course, this means that you need to have sent out info for how to connect via Remind at Meet The Teacher Night or through some other avenue prior to this. I guarantee you, even if less than half of your parents have signed up at that point, they will appreciate it, and then they will talk to other parents later. These parents who have not signed up yet will feel left out and they will immediately go home and make sure they are signed up, too. Try it.


P.S. You can check out my other "First Day" post here:
The FIRST Day: Morning Work Ideas

June 27, 2016

Monday Made It: June 27

Click here to visit the rest of the Link Up.

Since I will be moving grade levels and classrooms, I am doing a little classroom color update. Last year was all about red, black, and white, because the table tops in my classroom will all red. Well, my new classroom does not have red tables, so I decided to go the rainbow brights route. Conveniently enough, that works out pretty well for me and my friend, The Target Dollar Spot. On the other hand, I have a few things that need to be updated (luckily not too much-when you have red tables and red paper on your bulletin board, you don't really find yourself going crazy with the reds in other places). This Owl my mom and I made last year was one of those things. I simply bought a pack of paint markers from Michael's and went to town. I was even able to cover up one of the red stripes with orange. I think it turned out pretty cute! 

This terrarium, filled with plants from Home Depot, is my new favorite thing in my home! I love the way the plants, soil, and rocks add a rustic touch to our urban loft. I also love the little gnome that I impulse bought at Michael's when I was buying those paint markers from #1. 

Made It number 3 is something that has been on my to do list for a while. Lately, the hubby and I have been taking a big look at our budget, and FOOD is the one area that we could really work on. What can I say? We love to eat! I had heard that meal prep is a great way to save money and time, but I was always hesitant to try it because the recipes seemed bland and uninteresting to me. Well, once I got to really looking into it, I found that was not the case! Check out this great Pin. I chose the 10 Healthy Crockpot Freezer Meals recipes. 

Between shopping and prepping, this probably took about 2-2 1/2 hours. I think the shopping was the longest part, but it wasn't bad at all because the blogger provides the complete and organized shopping list. Anyways, we will be trying some of these out this week. They will last for 3 months in the freezer, though, so I plan on saving most of them for Back To School time. As far as $$ goes, I spent about $110. With that said, I ended up with some extra chicken and a bit of extra veggies as well. Some could probably do it cheaper, but for us, $11 per meal (which will yield leftovers for our family of 2) is a good deal on our road to food budge recovery ;) 

June 26, 2016

The FIRST Day: Morning Work Ideas

I just completed my eighth year of teaching 2nd graders, but I can remember my very first day like it was, well, yesterday! There is something exhilarating and frightening about that moment when the bell rings and your students start entering your classroom on the first day. There is so much to be accomplished in the first hour of a new year, and yet, we haven't trained our students on the routines and expectations of our classrooms. For that reason, it can be very tricky to find something for our new kiddos to "Do" during that time. 

Don't stress! I have 3 super simple and classroom tested suggestions:

1. Play Doh. This is all about using resources you already have. Since I have a Play Doh center for indoor recess, I simply took that Play Doh and distributed it out evenly among the desks. As the kiddos entered my classroom, I told them they could create anything they wanted with it. This started our day on a calm, social, and fun note. You could, of course, challenge your students to create their family, something that represents their favorite summer activity, etc. if you want. Play Doh is pretty affordable at Wal Mart and the Dollar Tree, and click here for a recipe I found on Pinterest!

2. Name Word Search. I think that one of my fellow teammates gave me this idea during my first year of teaching. The kids love it, and most 2nd graders find word searches challenging enough (of the horizonal, vertical, and diagonal kind) that you may be able to have them work on completing it during free time throughout the first week. I like to use Super Teacher Worksheets' word search creator, however, it is not free. Here is a free Word Search generator. I include everyone's first name and my own as well. Be sure to double check that you have everyone's names included before you print it off! I'm paranoid enough to triple check so that no one feels left out. Could you imagine if your name was missing out of the Class Word Search on the first day of school? Yikes!

3. Come To The Carpet. It is what it sounds like. You don't HAVE To have something ready to entertain your students at their desks right away, especially if you have a short arrival time. At my old school, my students could arrive within the span of 30 minutes, so I would have never done this. But, at my current school, they arrive within 10 minutes, so this is a perfect morning activity. As your students enter, you could simply invite them to hang up their backpacks and join you in a circle on the carpet. Begin giving words of welcome or affirmation, asking questions, making introductions, and sharing. Easy Peasy!

I hope that you have found some ideas to help you through your first days of school this year!


June 21, 2016

Tuesday Made It

Oops! The days are getting away from me. Last week was spent on a family vacation with my hubby, parents, sister, and her family. And by family vacation I mean that we enjoyed our time at a beach house and on the beach between bouts of the stomach virus. We passed that stuff around like nobody's business and the only person who didn't end up sick was my hubby! A little disappointing, but we will get over it and laugh about it one day. Hopefully soon.

So now for Monday Made It! It's my favorite! Please excuse my tardiness. If you would like to see the rest of the link up, click on the Monday Made It icon below. But don't do that until you read my post! 

Seesaw Task Cards: Back To School

I have been recovering from the above-mentioned sickness and doing some work this week, and my TPT project is what I am most excited about! You must check it out! It is a collection of Task cards to introduce the Seesaw App to your classrooms. Each card has a fun getting to know you (or getting to know the classroom) task on it plus some step by step instructions. If you have the App already and know how to use it, the only prep you need to do is to print these Task Cards out! If not, you will have some downloading and exploring to do, but I think this product can help you with that.

Ok, I didn't make anything yet, but I scored these signs from the Dollar Spot at Target. Any ideas of what I should do with them? Other than "stop buying stuff that you don't have ideas for already"? Ha!


June 10, 2016

Taking An Uncomfortable Rest

So I've been out of school for a week now, and I just have to admit: I am in a Summer Funk. I don't know if anyone out in teacher world can relate to this at all, because we're all supposed to be jumping up and down in our neighborhood pools yelling, "Yay! Summer! Freedom! Relaxation! Recuperation! Whoo hoo!" But, that's my truth.

Whenever there are transitions in my life like this, it takes a little while for me to get settled into them. First of all, there is a bit of a sadness about the end of a great year with a class you've poured your heart and soul into. Then, there is all of this slow free time that is just lovely but also daunting for those of us who love routine and being busy. It's just plain uncomfortable!

And yes, a lot of this has to do with my time in life. Newly married, no children, living in a new city... I would probably feel a lot better if I would just get super busy and make as many plans as possible, but I know the rest is important. Even if it's uncomfortable.

Personal trainers always tout the benefits of rest days, or even weeks, on our bodies, and it makes sense to me that this can apply to all facets of our lives. Do you need rest from something in your life?

Creative Rest?
    Emotional Rest?
        Spiritual Rest?
           Physical Rest?

For me, the answer to all of these is YES. There will be time for reflection and growth soon. But for now, I will be working on taking an Uncomfortable Rest.

June 7, 2016

Monday Made It!

Creative Writing With Fairy Tales: Advice Letters

I have a new product in my store! It's something simple you could use for a variety of grade levels and small group, centers, or full group settings. My kids enjoy reading fairy tales, and they especially love giving advice to other enter Fairy Tale Advice letters! The product includes several formats for student response (scaffolded for use of commas and frames) and include eight different requests for advice from common fairy tale characters. Check it out!  

I recently have begun making some of my own cleaning and laundry products. It's my effort to save money and get a little healthier with the chemicals I am introducing into my home. My sister requested that I make her a set, which is what is pictured above! Here are a few links for the recipes I've used so far:

I love love love these clipboards I made for my students at the end of the year! I hope they will treasure them for years to come. I used to create the word clouds, and simply mod podged them to the clipboards. For the word clouds, I included each student's name, the name of our school, class, and mascot, along with adjectives that I think describe them best. Voila!